In April 1994, South Africa held its first ever democratic elections, ushering Nelson Mandela into office as the nation's first black president. What has followed that election, as the country attempts to reinvent a society founded on racism and the indignities of apartheid, is the subject of Fault Lines
. "How does a nation deal with the memory of its brutal past?" is perhaps the question that most guides David Goodman, a journalist and longtime observer of South African life. Like the Truth and Reconciliation hearings
, the political instrument of South Africa's struggle to come to terms with apartheid-era crimes, the strength of Fault Lines
rests on an unflinching yet compassionate quest for truth. Goodman brings all his investigative skills to the task of getting an answer from all sides. He juxtaposes profiles of a victim of police brutality and the former security officer who helped torture him, or a well-off Afrikaner farmer and his neighbor, a black South African forcibly removed from his land. While formal apartheid has ended, Goodman finds "an unfinished revolution," with many citizens still mired in terrible economic and social injustice. Fault Lines
is fascinating, if disturbing, reading for anyone interested in understanding the history and present of what the author calls "the most exciting country in the world." --Maria Dolan
From Publishers Weekly
In this richly textured book, GoodmanAwho first went to South Africa as an activist in 1984 and returned for a year in 1996Aprofiles four pairs of people who dramatize the country's current conflicts and contradictions. The most gripping section concerns South Africa's deep rifts over land redistribution and amnesty: Frank Chikane, a former activist now in the government, must justify his government's rightward economic drift; his one-time torturer, a white ex-cop who became a killer during South Africa's Namibian war, is now a wreck. The story of Wilhelm Verwoerd, son of apartheid's architect, and his estranged son, a supporter of the African National Congress, dramatizes the schisms among Afrikaners. South Africa's enduring povertyAand potential opportunityAis shown in the juxtaposition of a black councilwoman near Cape Town and a brazen businesswoman who exploits white guilt and doesn't flinch at blaming fellow blacks. And on the platteland, where Afrikaner farmers still beat black workers, the return of land to displaced blacks proceeds slowly. Goodman contextualizes these tales with a savvy understanding of both South Africa's history and its slow, troubled transformation. While his book doesn't encompass all of the country's fault lines of region, ethnicity and class, Goodman eloquently conveys why he has been obsessed by South Africa and its trials. Ultimately, he finds South Africans' passion for their country inspirational, and so will most readers. Photos by Paul Weinberg. First serial to the New Yorker.
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